Dave, Mary, Leah & Jessica Kruger cruised from 1998 – 2002 aboard Synchronicity, a Fraser 41 hailing from Vancouver, BC, Canada that they bought as a hull & deck and on which Mark spent 1995-1998 finishing. They cruised in Mexico, S. Pacific, Australia, SE Asia, Red Sea, Med, Caribbean, Mexico, and the "Clipper Route" home to Vancouver. Mary (Mother) and Leah (daughter) completed the interview questions and are happy to be contacted by email (Mary - email@example.com & Leah - firstname.lastname@example.org). Mary says: I would recommend cruising as a wonderful lifestyle for a family.
What advice would you give to parents thinking about taking their children cruising?
Mary: I would say DO IT! I think it is best to take kids once they are out of diapers, though I've seen folks do it with babies/toddlers. My kids were 6 and 10 when we left and that worked out great. It was tough when my oldest was 15 because she was so tired of having to say goodbye to friends that she had just met. Kids open the doors to all the countries and other cruisers. They are a universal language of their own!
Leah: I don't know if this is obvious but I would just say make sure each kid has their own personal space... my sister and I shared the v-berth, but thanks to the two cushions we each had our "own room" (my room was the port-side cushion, her's was the starboard). Sometimes when we were sick of each other we'd tape a sheet to the ceiling and literally "divide" the room in two... this never lasted long, but did a good job of giving that itsy bit of privacy I especially wanted sometimes!!
What is your biggest lesson learned?
Mary: That no matter where you are in the world people are really alike. They smile, they love, they enjoy life. Also, that you don't have to have money to be happy. Some of the poorest people we ever saw- Mexico, Indonesia, Africa - were also the most content and happiest.
Leah: Because I spent those years surrounded by adults who had given up the "typical 9-5" for a cruising lifestyle, the biggest lesson I learned was when friends of ours came to visit for a few weeks and then had to go back to work... I'd never realised that some adults actually have to go to work -- I just figured they must really love their jobs, or they'd be out sailing too :)
What is the most difficult aspect of the cruising lifestyle?
Mary: Probably being away from family at home. Also laundry! I had calluses on my hands from all the wringing of laundry!
Leah: From the local kids who showed us their awesome local swimming hole, to the Omanian kids we spent two days playing non-stop with (through hand-signals only, since we didn't speak each other's languages!) to the four or five kid-boats that we developed life-long friendships with but had to leave eventually... Hands-down the hardest part is leaving behind the people you meet.
What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike?
Mary: I loved having my home with me, so that if we had a bad day I could retreat inside and feel like I was back in Canada. I disliked being seasick and sometimes the constant motion that wouldn't end when on a passage.
Leah: I dislike the (at times) fairly intense competition that can crop up -- "Oh you've only been to Mexico?" "You mean you don't have a watermaker??" etc etc etc... I recognize that we all want a chance to share our stories, but I think sometimes the jostling gets a little too serious. I like the immediate sense of community -- especially as a kid, if you saw another boat with kids on it you knew you were going to be instant best friends... there wasn't time for anything else!
What type of watch schedule do you normally use while offshore?
Mary: My husband and I always maintained a 2 hrs on, 2 hrs off schedule. During the day, it was a little more slack as both our daughters took a turn at a watch of an hour or two.
Leah: Mom and dad always did strict 2-hours on, 2-hours off, with me doing an afternoon watch so they could both have a break. The only time they broke from this schedule was when our windvane broke in a storm... then the three of us did 1 hour watches through the night.
When have you felt most in danger and what was the source?
Mary: Off the coast of Australia in a storm, where we had to hand steer, including my daughter (she was only 12) for an hour at a time. We had a gale, and lightening hitting everywhere.
Also during a storm off the coast of Columbia - self steering went again and we were dangerously close to losing our mast - in the end we tore a couple of wires in one stay. There were very large waves and 30-35 knots of wind. We tore a huge rip in our main sail. Of course, the worst always happens during the middle of the night in the very black dark.
Leah: As a kid, I looked to my parents for their reactions. So long as dad didn't look worried, I wasn't worried. The one time this failed was when dad got a serious staph infection in his leg (in the middle of the Indian Ocean while we were on passage)... he wasn't able to stand, and mom had to take complete control of the boat. To see dad (our Captain) completely unable to do anything was incredibly scary. Luckily for us we were travelling with friends who used to be doctors... they were about 50 miles ahead of us, but they turned around and did a "house-call", where they scraped out the rotting flesh from his leg and put him on strong antibiotics.
Share a piece of cruising etiquette
Mary: When you are in an anchorage and a new boat comes in call them on the radio or drop by in a dinghy and offer them to come over for coffee or a drink.
Leah: If there's a shared dinghy dock, put really long ties on your dinghy so lots of boats can get in and share. "If you're out sailing and there's another sailboat in good-photo-range, I think it's excellent cruising etiquette to radio them and offer to take their picture and email it to them. It's so hard to get great shots of your boat under sail, this is an offer that is generally very well received!!
Tell me your favorite thing about your boat
Mary: My galley, I can make cakes, buns and a pretty nice dinner from it. It's huge for a boat. They called me the Martha Stewart of the sea!!
Leah: Now that I sail without mom and dad, I appreciate many more things about her... I guess my favourite is that since Dad built her things are very well thought out... such as easy access to the engine & bilge, cupboards that fit our dishes, storage in every possible nook you can imagine, etc etc etc..
What was the most affordable area to cruise and the most expensive? What was affordable or cheap about each area?
Mary: Indonesia and Turkey by far were the cheapest for food and great anchorages. Lots of ruins in Turkey to see and no cost unlike Greece. Italy's food was outrageously expensive - we ate out once.
Leah: Most affordable was probably Turkey -- we anchored everywhere, ate out for about $1 / person, and hauled the boat (in a boatyard strewn with ancient Turkish ruins and gorgeous flowering bougainvillea) for about $200. Most expensive I would say Israel -- my perspective is skewed a bit since I wasn't really in charge of finances, but I do remember that a McDonald's hamburger cost $12 and we did not eat out at all while we were there!
What question do you wish I would have asked and how would you have answered?
Why did we do it?
We wanted a simpler life, and a life where we could spend more time with our two daughters. We got both. It was a very cheap way travel in relative comfort. I loved seeing all the countries and loved doing it with my family.
We are a very close knit family and I believe it is because of the trip. Plus our girls got to see how fortunate they were compared to so many poor people out there. Our girls are mature and very independent, I'm sure because of the trip.
What equipment do you wish you had?
A water maker and a washing machine.
I was terrified that my husband or one of the girls would go overboard. I always feared that when I came back on watch during the night, that he would be gone.
What do you think about sailing to places that are in "strife" (ie Israel, Sri Lanka, "Pirate-Alley" etc)?
Again, this is from my younger perspective, but when I think about the times that we went places other people were warning us not to, we often had the best experiences. Where we were moored in Israel was 7 miles from Gaza Strip... we could hear the bombs going off day & night. Ditto Sri Lanka -- we could hear the depth-charges being fired every evening. But what I realised is that no matter what the political situation, there are always people who continue their daily lives... the butchers continue to sell meat and the restaurants continue to offer meals... and I think the upside to visiting some of the more "dangerous" places is that as a tourist you are much more of a novelty, and people are often very anxious to show you that their country is still beautiful and wonderful, and that there is more to the Red Sea than pirates and more to Israel than war.